New York is a city of wonders where a Y. A. Tittle appears just as a Charlie Conerly is beginning to campaign for Medicare, where an Earl Morrall falls gift-wrapped from the skies when Tittle departs, where a Tucker Frederickson blossoms as Alex Webster and Frank Gifford wilt and where a Pete Gogolak sends his calling card even as the team is perishing for a soccer-style Hungarian place-kicker from Buffalo. Despite the current blessings New York remains an incomplete team, as any realist can tell, but it does not pay to be overly realistic about the Giants. They have a couple of x factors going for them which defy ordinary analysis. One is that uncanny knack of picking up vital players. The other is a carryover of pride and poise from the days when the Giants were always contenders—the winning habit that sometimes makes a team better than it really is. Consigned to oblivion last year, the Giants got so much value from Quarterback Morrall and Halfback Frederickson that they tied Dallas for second place in the East. The Giant defense was not good and the offense not all that strong—and still the Giants were second.
Now the Giants have Gogolak's accurate instep and some first-class rookie linemen. They still have vulnerable points, but in the vulnerable East and with these x factors they must be accorded a certain respect. A good share of it is due Morrall, the indispensable man, who provides 11 years of experience. Morrall is a reasonably accurate drop-back passer, short and long, who can run in emergency situations. After a year's study he knows the Giant system, and he has taken charge of the offense. Behind Morrall is scrambling, young Gary Wood.
Frederickson is No. 1 among the herd of young running backs who have been named the Baby Bulls. He was eighth in rushing last season and a candidate for Rookie of the Year honors, caught 24 passes and pleased New York with his good looks and manners. Frederickson's young comrades in the Giant backfield are Chuck Mercein, Ernie Koy and Steve Thurlow. As a group they could use a little more experience—especially in following their blockers—and they are not quite quick enough to turn the corner like a Jimmy Brown, but they will do.
The Giant receivers are not especially distinguished, but they do the job in a workmanlike way. There is a faceless guy named Joe Morrison at flanker who never gets into the Jantzen ads, but it is surprising how often he has the ball in his hands when it is third and nine. Aaron Thomas at tight end catches his share, too, without fanfare. The glamour boy of the receiving corps used to be Del Shofner, in the days when he was catching Y.A.'s bombs. Injuries and illness took him out of the news, but now he is said to be back in good form and ready to haul in the long ones. Homer Jones is the new speed boy who gets loose for long yardage every now and then.
Coach Allie Sherman is no more eager than the next coach to use rookies in his starting lineup, but in the offensive line he has no other choice. The most promising one is Francis Peay of Missouri, 250 pounds, the Giants' No. 1 draft choice and, some say, the top offensive lineman in college last year. He starts at right tackle. At the other tackle is Don Davis of San Diego State, an even bigger rookie (285 pounds). Veterans Bookie Bolin, Greg Larson and Pete Case fill out the interior line, which will need some settling down to become reliable.
The Giant offense will not overwhelm anyone, but if history is a guide the team will score just enough points to win some close games that could go either way. Gogolak, who kicked 28 field goals for Buffalo last year while New York was racking up a grand total of four, is a timely addition.
On defense the Giants have not come close to reduplicating the shrewd, stingy platoon of the Sam Huff era. The line has been a worry ever since Sherman traded Dick Modzelewski and Rosey Grier, and while Huff was not the superman of his clippings his trade to Washington did nothing for the Giant linebacking. End Andy Robustelli's retirement to coach the Brooklyn Dodgers has removed another of the old dependables. End Jim Katcavage is the last of that gang still operating in the line. Trades brought in Jim Prestel at tackle and Maury Youmans at end, but Youmans' bad knee has put him out. The other tackle position is the object of a three-way fight.
At linebacker the Giants are counting on Jim Carroll, Jerry Hillebrand, Bill Swain and Larry Vargo, all of whom can be very good on occasion. Carroll is young and a fine prospect. Olen Underwood, once in the running, was dropped. The secondary is a none-too-impressive combination of youth and experience. Henry Carr, Spider Lockhart and Phil Harris have two seasons of experience among the three of them, while Dick Lynch has played eight years and Jim Patton 11. The 32-year-old Patton is the dean of pro defensive backs and, as such, is about due for retirement. Carr, an Olympic sprinter, still must make the trackman's adjustment to football.
As the only club besides the 49ers with an AFL rival next door, the Giants have an extra-special motivation to play winning football. The Jets have been hugely successful in Shea Stadium, and though Yankee Stadium is a near sellout for the Giants on a season-ticket basis, Giant management obviously cannot afford to risk diluting the loyalty of its regulars through any letdown.
Put the Giants down for third, but be prepared to duck those xs.